By Philips Akpoviri.
“Leaders establish the vision for the future and set the strategy for getting there; they cause change. They motivate and inspire others to go in the right direction and they, along with everyone else, sacrifice to get there.” ~ Dr John P. Kotter.
I have been deeply immersed in some kind of wandering thoughts all evening in this land that is gradually becoming home to me. Just as I continued, my Korean friend and colleague came by, and as if he knew what I have been thinking about, he retorted with his distinct Korean accent, "I would love to visit Nigeria. Your country must be very beautiful, and all of you very rich...", I looked at him dazed, and quickly asked what informed his conclusion. His response further left me startled when he defended his supposition by telling me this words "In Korea we are not lucky. We do not have petrol (meaning oil and gas) but you have so much of it...if we that are not lucky to enjoy that blessing could still get all we get, and live comfortably as we do, then certainly, Nigeria with all your enormous oil wealth would all be living as kings and queens" To shorten the rather lengthy story, I would sincerely submit that by the time he finished with his adulation of my sorry country, a deep well of tears had been dug up in my heart.
I have been privileged to have travelled across quite a few countries outside Nigeria, but without the slightest thought of equivocation, none of these thus far effectively rivals what I have seen and experienced so far in South Korea especially when I recall that they do not have any meaningful nature-bestowed resource. Yet still, never for once have I seen any road, any street, or any close no matter how short and useless it might appear with a single pot-h*** or left untarred. Never for once have I seen a single begger chasing down riders or pedestrians around at busy junctions begging for alms. Never for once have I seen a single non-functional streetlight or traffic ligh. Save for the occassional provocations from North Korea, their cantankerous Northern neighbours, never for once have I heard of any armed robbery, or ethno-religious skirmishes, never for once have I seen or heard of any gun-wielding, trigger-happy fellow shooting at innocent fellow citizens at will. Never for once have I seen many unsightly things that dot the planes of my country. Theirs is a country where virtually everything works, and mine is embarassingly and undeservedly the reverse.
South Korea has no proven hydrocarbon reserve, minerals and I repeat none of such natural resource, yet until this day, they form an integral and ineluctable part of the global oil and gas business.
This country owns Hyunday Heavy Industries, Samsung Heavy Industries, and Daewoo Heavy Industries which are three of the biggest oil and gas platforms and ship building companies in the world. These mega-engineering companies account for the construction of a good number of new Floating Production Storage and Offloading vessels, fixed oil and gas platforms, very large cargo careers, LNG ships, and other of such facilities for rich Oil and Gas countries across Africa, the Middle East and Asia Pacific till date, incuding Nigeria of course.
As if the above mega industry is not enough, South Korea has three of the world's largest refineries, with SK Energy Refinery in Ulsan refining 840, 000 barrels/day, Yeosu Refinery processing about 700, 000 barrels/day, and the third, S-Oil Refinery also in Ulsan refining 520, 000 barrels/day of crude oil. To put this figures in context, Nigeria's three refineries in Kaduna, Warri, and Port Harcourt all put together at optimum capacity refines less than the smallest of the Korean three. It is therefore otiose to register the position of Nigeria's refineries in the global scheme of things.
Yet still, these are not the most amazing stuffs in Korea. How can that be without a mention of their astonishing level of infrastructural development. The capital city, Seoul has two international airports - the old Gimpo International airport which is now moreorless a domestic airport, and the magnificient multiple award winning Incheon International airport. Again, with pains, I say as old and as appaling as Gimpo Airport appears, it is far better than Nigeria's best International Airport which I think should be the ever-hot, nothing-to-write-home-about Murtala Mohammed International Airport Lagos.
In addition, South Korea is home to two rapidly expanding automobile companies - Hyundai, and Kia which churn out over three million units of cars every year making the country of one the top five car producers in the world thus underlining their virile automobile industry. Today, Nigeria has mastered the art of importing fairly used, or more appropriately, over-used vehicles.
How about the wide array of sporting facilities the country offers? I could not remember correctly the last time I kicked anything like football, but once I arrived in this country, with well-maintained, green, and attractive football pitches dotting the places it was difficult resisting the lure of testing my footballing proficiency after several years of hibernation. This is interestingly the same story for quite a number of other outdoor games. As usual, this is the exact opposite of what is obtainable in my country where football is played on hard soil, in schools, and on the streets. Tennis, gulf and other outdoor games are exclusive preserve of the rich - in their estates and 'big man's' club houses.
I have deliberately opted out of the choice of bringing to the fore their very well planned cities, housing schemes, highly efficient world class transportation system, palpably low level of unemployment, high sense of morals, general sense of organisation and their aversion for corruption. Hence, you can easily put two and two together to see why some of the world's super powers just cannot stop sticking around South Korea.
Granted Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with a population approximately three times South Korea's. But with the same country sitting on the summit as Africa's highest oil producer albeit with little competition from Angola, it would without a doubt tantamount to sheer laze to find a genuine defence for Nigeria's failure where a few other countries like South Korea are performing wonders to the benefits of their citizens, and the protection of their unborn generations.
Nigeria has not been left behind because Nigerians are lazy. No, Nigerians are hardworking, Nigerians are strong, in fact the average Nigerian is stronger and bigger than the average Korean. But in today's world, the battle is not by strength, rather it is by strategy. We live in a world where intellect is actually stronger than muscles, aptly put, it is not about the size, rather it is about the sense. We live in a world where leaders of states sit, plan and execute programmes both for their present as well as their future. We are where we are today because when countries like my reference were planning towards national sustainable development, our dear disgraceful Nigerian leaders were assiduously working for their personal sustenance and the avaricious expansion of their individual dynasties at the expense of our collective destinies.
The road map of the New Nigeria project has been drawn severally by different sets of eminent Nigerians before. It is now time bring out the drawings, then start the doing accordingly. It is now time to work the talk. In the words of former US President, Bill Clinton on his visit to Nigeria, “Nigeria is to rich to be poor”. I cannot agree with him more.
God bless Nigeria, my country.
PHILIPS AKPOVIRI, a social commentator and political analyst writes in from South Korea.